2 July 2009
Thousands of investors who lost money on Lehman Brothers minibonds held a noisy and sometimes emotional rally yesterday, calling on the chief executive to step down, and saying the fiasco had yet to be resolved.
Waving black banners with the slogans "Lehman [saga] unresolved" and "[Chief Executive Donald] Tsang Yam-kuen step down", the group marched from Victoria Park to the Bank of China tower in Central.
However, protesters became emotional outside the bank, and several tried to storm it. "Give me back the money, Bank of China!" shouted protester Peter Lee as he tried to break through the police line and pull away metal barriers. The 47-year-old had bought more than HK$1 million of minibonds from the bank, the biggest seller of Lehman Brothers-linked investment products in Hong Kong.
"A 100 per cent buy-back!" shouted another protester.
Trying to calm protesters, Peter Chan Kwong-yue, chairman of the Alliance of Lehman Brothers Victims, organiser of the rally, called on them to gather at the building again on National Day, October 1, if the bank had failed to settle the dispute.
Organisers said 25,000 took part in the march, but police said about 4,000 left Victoria Park for Central.
About 48,000 Hongkongers lost most of the HK$20 billion they invested in credit-linked derivatives, such as minibonds, issued or guaranteed by Lehman Brothers, when the American investment bank collapsed in September. Minibonds are not corporate bonds, but consist of high-risk credit-linked derivatives. They are marketed as a proxy investment in well-known companies.
The protesters said they took to the streets because Mr Tsang and the regulators failed to force financial institutions to offer a 100 per cent buy-back of the minibonds. "I'm here today because the bank has cheated me of all my money. I want my money back," Yu Shing, 79, said. Mr Yu insisted on joining the march even though he had difficulty walking after a stroke in November.
Sandra Chow, 45, said she wanted to show her support for other victims although she had already settled her case with the bank.
A government spokesman said that the administration recognised the difficult circumstances faced by minibond investors, and expressed the hope "that the institutions involved will expedite the proper handling of the matter".
He said banks and trustees had been urged to safeguard the interests of holders.
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